Sunday, 27 December 2009

Canadian Fiction

Finished December 27
The Fallen by Stephen Finucan
This novel is set in Naples, Italy during World War II and centres around a young Canadian lieutenant. Thomas Greaves has been tranferred to a British branch of the security police after an incident. We don't fully understand what has affected him until close to the end of the book. One of Greaves tasks in Naples is to work with a local museum to help protect their collection. He also travels to nearby rural areas to liase with local authorities.
In Naples, the population struggles to find enough to eat and criminal gangs operate using bribery to get heads turned the other way.
Besides Greaves we also see things from the point of view of two museum staff, the elderly curator, Augusto Parente, and his young female assistant, Luisa Gennaro. Another main character is Aldo Cioffi, Parente's nephew, a young man who, though trained as a doctor, does as little as possible in the way of work, and only thinks of himself.
As the characters interact and affect each other's lives, we see how the lines blur between good and bad, between protectors and criminals. This debut novel shows a deep understanding of human nature and is a wonderful read.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

About Story

Finished December 23
"told" the art of story by Simon Aboud
This interesting analysis of storytelling breaks storytelling into twenty principles, discusses those and then puts a selection of the principles together to tell a story. The story examples are good at showing the principles as they are laid out and make you think about the components of a story and what role each of those components plays.
A very interesting book.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Different one for this author

Finished December 20
13 1/2 by Nevada Barr
This is the first novel I've read by her that wasn't part of her Anna Pigeon series, and while that series has lots of violence, this one was darker than those.
The novel follows three characters for the most part. One is a boy (who becomes a man) who was convicted, at the age of eleven, of killing his father, mother and younger sister. The second is his older brother, who was injured in the attack. The third is a woman who ran away from home at the age of fifteen, discouraged by her future prospects and the abusive life she'd led to that point. As these three people come together in post-Katrina New Orleans, we see very human struggles and the issues of trust come into the story.
This was a very intense novel and I found it both hard to read and hard to put down.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Intellectual Mystery

Finished December 14
The Oxford Murders by Guillermo Martinez
The narrator of this mystery is a young mathematician from Argentina who has come to study at Oxford. Shortly after his arrival he is one of the two people to discover his elderly landlady dead. There is an odd clue that was left in a note to another mathematician, who was a friend, with a cryptic symbol and the words 'the first in the series'.
As he and the older mathematics professor, Seldom, try to work out the series before it takes place, the young student also tries to look at other aspects of the case.
A knowledge of mathematics is not necessary to appreciate the nuances of this mystery, as we slowly work with the student toward the solution.

Feel-good audiobook

Finished December 14
Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern, read by Caroline Lennon
Finished this audiobook on the way home from work. It's a light romantic comedy of a book, leaving you with a happy aftertaste.
Joyce Conway of Dublin has had an accident leaving her in the hospital for a few days, and now she finds she has memories that seem to be from someone else. She also has knowledge and skills she never had before. She puzzles over these strange occurrences and begins to get back to her changed life. She moves in with her elderly father temporarily, and looks to her friends for help in detecting the cause for the changes in her life.
Justin Hitchcock is still restless and unhappy from the changes in his life. He has moved to London from the U.S. to be closer to his daughter at ballet school, and still hasn't come to terms with his divorce. He is doing a series of lectures at Trinity College in Dublin, traveling back and forth from London. Justin's younger brother Al and his wife Doris are visiting and they and his daughter help him figure out his recent obsession with a woman he met briefly in London, and the feelings he has around his first blood donation.
This is a fun and lively book, plotted around a very interesting premise. I enjoyed it.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Quirky Book

Finished December 14
How to Avoid Huge Ships and Other Implausibly Titled Books
This quirky little book is a collection of odd book titles, all from the Diagram Prize, the annual contest to determine the oddest book title of the year. Celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the prize, the Bookseller magazine, who established the prize, decided to bring the titles together to celebrate. The book contains fifty of the best winners and runners-up.
I've followed this wonderful prize for a few years now, and am always amused by several titles in each year's short list. I was immediately grabbed when I saw this title on our new book cart and was the first one here to take it home to look at.
The book gives a history of the prize and its development first, and follows with colour images of the books.


Finished December 14
God Is by David Adams Richards
This book examines faith, the ideas of good and evil, fate (although it doesn't call it that), and the forces that work on our lives. Using instances from his own life and experiences, the author takes on the idea of God's existence and those who argue against it.
I should say that my own religious background is Protestant, and although I was baptised as a child, I am not a regular churchgoer. But Richards addressed the issues that I have had with religion by talking about the sometimes disconnect between religious actions and faith. A lot of what he discusses here is stuff that I have thought but not been able to put into words.
This is a very interesting book, and certainly helped me to think about the issues he discusses in new ways. I recommend it.


Finished December 13
50 Architects You Should Know
This is a good overview of the leading architects through history, arranged in historical order. It gives brief information about the architect themselves as well as the major buildings that they designed.
The pictures included are good quality and help to show the architect's work, but could have used more complete captions. I found that I sometimes had trouble orienting myself, especially when there was more than one picture of a building.
I would have liked to see more pictures, at least of all the buildings discussed for each architect. I found that when a building was discussed, yet no pictures included, I would have to go elsewhere to find out what the building looked like.
I also found the timelines not as useful as they could be, partly due to lack of explanation. The timelines ran across the top of every architect page, and included various historical events and lifetimes of artists, architect and designers. Sometimes I could see relationships between events and the architect whose page they were and sometimes not. Sometimes I could see influences cited to the artists and architects whose timelines appeared on an architect's page, sometimes not. But no pages included the life timeline for the given architect as part of this information. Separate information was given in a sidebar, but a life timeline would have made sense.
A good book to start with, but you will definitely want to use other sources of information as well.

Monday, 7 December 2009


Finished December 6
The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville, read by Bill Wallis
This story follows the life of Daniel Rooke. Touching on key points in his childhood, it focuses on his work as the astronomer with the First Fleet and its work in New South Wales. We see how, as a child, he was an outsider. He found a mentor and eventually a passion as an astronomer. Due to the lack of a job market for this profession, he joined the marines, and went to America before his trip to New South Wales.
Various things along the way influenced his interest and his character, but as he tries to establish himself in his profession in New South Wales, he not only charts the stars, but begins to establish a relationship with some of the native people. In particular he grows close to a young girl and it is his feelings around the natives and their identity that sets his future in ways he had never dreamt.
This is a book around character more than events, but the setting also plays a role. I really enjoyed the book, but found the execution of the audio inconsistent, with some varying volume and some sections were harder to hear.

Friday, 4 December 2009

British Mystery

Finished Dec 3
Midnight Fugue by Reginald Hill
Dalziel has come back to work, although there is some concern whether he is ready to be back, even by himself. When he gets up one morning to go off to his first case review meeting, he gets sidetracked and is approached by Gina Wolfe, in search of help regarding her missing husband. Gina has been sent to Dalziel by her fiance, a policeman Dalziel met years earlier.
What starts off as a favor by Dalziel turns into a murder case and the reasons started many years before. There is a lot going on here, but Hill manages to meld things together wonderfully. As we move back and forth between the different characters, we watch to see motives, mistakes, and methods. Once I got into this I stayed up past my bedtime to finish it.

British Fiction

Finished December 1
Portobello by Ruth Rendell
This is not a mystery, but more suspense around a number of characters in the same neighbourhood of London whose paths cross in interesting ways.
Eugene Wren is an art dealer and gallery owner recently turned fifty. He has a long-term relationship with a forty-year-old physician named Ella, which is about to become more permanent. Lance is a twenty-something unemployed uneducated man, kicked out by his parents, and recently dumped and kicked out by his girlfriend. He now lives with his great uncle Gilbert, a reformed ex-con, now heavily involved in the Church of the Children of Zebulun. Gilbert dislikes Lance intensely, but takes his rent money in exchange for as little as possible. Joel is the son of a wealthy couple who has been ostracized from his family and now is experiencing mental health issues.
As the world of these characters overlap and they interact with each other, each drawn towards a change in their lives that will require drastic adjustment after difficulties.
Intense psychological plots are Rendell's forte and this is a gem of an example. Little by little you are drawn into the minds of the characters as they move inexorably further towards their fates.

Historical Fiction for Teens

Finished November 29
Ruby Red by Linzi Glass
This novel was shortlisted for the Carnegie and well worth it. It is set in South Africa around the time of the Soweto Riots. The main character is Ruby, a white teen girl. Ruby goes to the English high school (as opposed to the Afrikaans high school). Her father is a lawyer who defends not only the rich, but also poor black activists. Her mother owns an art gallery where she often highlights up and coming black artists. This puts her family under a vigilant eye by the powerful, and Ruby lives a very private life, not admitting her own or her parents' views openly.
When she rebuffs the advances of a boy in her school and falls for a Afrikaans boy, she alienates her school friends and begins to be harassed. When the riots begin, her family is caught in the middle.
There is a lot going on here, and Ruby must mature faster than most teens as she deals with it. There is lots of interesting history here, and a section at the end gives more information on South African history. Glass was born in South Africa, emigrating to the U.S. as a young adult.

Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This novel is set in New York City in the early 1900s and centres around three young women. Bella has emigrated alone from Italy, hoping to earn enough to provide sustenance for her mother and siblings back home. Yetta is a Jewish girl who has emigrated from Russia with her elder sister, running from the pogroms against the Jews back there. Jane is the daughter of a busy industrialist, who lost her mother at a young age. Bella and Yetta both work at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, and struggle to survive on what they earn. When Bella loses her only support in the new world, she also struggles against a landlord who takes advantage of her ignorance. Yetta is one of the first to join the strike against her employer, and walks the picket line, being abused and even jailed for her actions. Jane is lonely and bored, and joins other wealthy young women taking an interest in the strike as an action in the suffragette movement. As the three young women meet and become friends, their lives intertwine. When the fatal fire happens at the shirtwaist factory, only one survives.
This story is done very well, giving a realistic view of conditions at the time (both social and economic). The story is told as a looking back by the survivor, to a young woman who has tracked her down and wants to understand what happened. Both realistic and engaging, this story will keep you reading until the end. More historical information is included in an appendix.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Children's Fiction

Finished November 28
Carbonel, The King of the Cats and The Kingdom of Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh
These two books are part of the same series and I have lovely editions from the NYRB for a gift to give this Christmas.
Lovely cats, a touch or two of magic, lots of adventures and two nice children make for a great read. We see young Rosemary Brown gain possession of a broom and a cat to begin, and follow her and the cat Carbonel as they work to find the tools and means necessary to free Carbonel from his spell. Rosemary is joined by John and he helps to discover the final step.
In the second book, Carbonel's kingdom is threatened by the greedy queen in the neighbouring kingdom and Rosemary and John once again do what they can to save the day.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Thriller plus paranormal

Finished November 26
Blood and Ice by Robert Masello, read by Phil Gigante
This thriller, set mostly in Antartica, turned out the have a touch of the paranormal to its plot. The main character is a journalist, Michael Wilde, who has retreated from his life after a terrible accident that put his girlfriend into a coma. When he is unexpectedly offered a last-minute assignment to go to a research station at the South Pole, he jumps at it.
He meets some other interesting people at the pole, each there for their own reason, and makes particular friends with the two who arrive the same time as him, a marine biologist and a doctor.
When offered the chance to do a dive into the frigid Antarctic Ocean, he again jumps at it, and makes an unexpected discovery of what seems to be a woman frozen into the ice. It turns out to be a couple.
We jump back in time to the world the young couple belong in, that of the 1850s, and gradually discover the events that led to them being trapped in the ice where Michael found them.
As we discover their past, we also learn how the discovery of them affects the residents of the research station for both the good and the bad.
I liked most of the characters, yet found the plot, while fast-moving, a bit forced at times. I also felt that the ending left a lot of things unresolved. The story was interesting and the plot inventive.

More Great Canadian Fiction

Finished November 26
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
The tale had me hooked right away. It is all about the central character Mary Gooch. Mary is obese (or as she calls it, mishearing when she was a child, possessed by an obeast). She works part-time in the local drugstore, and lives a solitary sort of life with her husband.
On the eve on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, her husband doesn't come home. At first Mary isn't sure what to make of it, and soldiers on. When she finally faces up to his disappearance, she decides to follow the faint clues she has to follow him.
Mary has never ventured far beyond the small town of Leaford, Ontario and her journey takes her first to the big city of Toronto and then across the continent, opening her horizons in many ways.
She encounters many different people, from different walks of life and finds connections to them in unexpected ways. She finds inner resources and external supports that change the way she approaches her life. This is a tale of self-discovery at its best and most urgent, and a wonderful read. Definitely one of my favourites for the year.
I also like that Lansens uses Canadian settings, showing her own roots.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Feel Good Novel

Finished November 22
The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes
Well Marian Keyes and has done it again and even better than before. Instead of her usual focus on one woman and her life, this book looks at the inhabitants of four apartments in a low-rise building in Dublin. We see how their lives intertwine, what issues each character is going through and how they deal with those issues.
As usual we do not have complete knowledge of any given character, but enought to get a feel for what is happening, what has happened and what may be on the horizon for them. We get glimpses into their thought processes and what motivates them.
Keyes is an expert in the human situation and with this novel she has so many interesting situtations and characters to show us that expertise that we barely even notice how long it is as we are caught up in the plot so thoroughly.
I read most of this book in a single day, and felt a sense of loss when I finished it. I want to see what else happens to these people and their friends. In many cases, I want to befriend these people and become a part of the story.
Marian Keyes never disappoints and this novel, while a bit different in scope, will keep you reading.

Friday, 20 November 2009

For Animal Lovers

Finished November 20
Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck, and a Few Turtles by Rescue Ink with Denise Flaim
This book about Rescue Ink and its members is not only about an animal rescue group, but also about a group that works to educate people about the fact that abuse is wrong. A lot of people that rescue animals are female but this group is definitely male, and they are not afraid to be seen cuddling a small animal. But they are also not afraid to face abusers head on and work in as peaceful a way as possible to show them the error of your ways. They are careful not to break the law, but they definitely have more power than most to get the attention of abusers and then offer them solutions.
As they say, if you see an animal kept outdoors in inadequate shelter, instead of judging and reporting them, offer to help them with shelter or drill deeper to the reason the animal is kept outdoors.
The book shows us each member of the core Rescue Ink group and tells us how they got to where they are now. This was very interesting and thought-provoking.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

More Canadian Fiction

Finished November 16
The Last Woman by John Bemrose
This is a novel set in cottage country in Ontario that encompasses not only a variety of relationships, but also native rights and the environment.
Billy has been away from Pine Island, where he used to be band chief, for ten years. He left after the loss of a case regarding native land rights where Richard was the band lawyer.
Billy and Richard had a falling out around the case and their relationship soured.
Richard and Ann were only recently married back then, and Ann's father was still alive. Now he has passed away and the couple have a young son with his own special issues.
Ann also has a personal past with Billy that has never been fully resolved, and while she is happy to see him back, she is not sure quite what she wants from him.
Billy is not sure what his place in his native community now is, and struggles to come to terms with issues in that society and the larger community around them.
There is a lot going on in this book and it grabs and holds your attention. This is a book that would appeal to book clubs, with a lot of discussion points and much to engage the reader.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Canadian Fiction

Finished November 14
Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell
This novel had me glued to it until I finished it in one sitting. We follow Teodor Mykolayenko and his family from the spring of 1938 until the spring of 1939. The Mykolayenko's are immigrants from the Ukraine, who have settled in Alberta.
Teodor has just returned to his family after a year spent in jail for stealing his own grain. His wife and children have been living in a shed on the land of his sister Anna and her family. Anna has agreed to pay the fee to homestead the land beside her own, with Teodor breaking the land and taking on the ownership of it. He and his family work hard to break and plant the land, build a house and barn, and make a home for themselves.
When Anna's shiftless and cruel husband returns, both families find themselves fighting to defend what they have worked so hard for.
This novel gives a real feel for the difficulty of homesteading, the difficulty of living in a land where you don't speak the language and don't have a support system to assist you. This is a gripping story of a family where each character comes through deeply.

Epic Audiobook

Finished November 13
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones, translated by Nick Caistor, read by Paul Michael
This long (18 CD) book is a gripping tale that follows the lives Bernard Estanyol and his son Arnau. Bernard was born a serf, and when his father dies his lord takes advantage of numerous rights that enrage and frustrate Bernard.
As a last resort he and his infant son Arnau escape to Barcelona, where they take refuge with Bernard's sisters family, a family that Bernard and his father helped to be successful as potter artisans. The city is just beginning two large building projects, a cathedral and the church of Santa Maria de la Mar. Santa Maria is a church built by the people for the people and this book also revolves around its construction.
As a boy, Arnau joins the guild of men who transport goods, the bastaixos. This guild also hauls stones from the quarry to Santa Maria to be used to build the church and Arnau becomes a true member of the guild by hauling his first stone.
In the various times of crisis the city faces, Arnau survives severe hunger, joins the king's army, and defends Jews attacked by prejudiced zealots. He becomes a successful and respected member of the community.
When he is betrayed and brought on charges before the Inquisition, he learns who his true friends are and how much Barcelona has become his home.
I learned a lot of history here, but in a very entertaining way. The book offers moments of hearbreak and hope and I am not surprised it was so successful in Spain. It won the Euskadi de Plata 2006 for the best novel in Spanish, the Que Leer 2007 Prize for the best book, as well as the Italian Giovanni Boccaccio 2007 award for the best foreign author. It has been published in thirty-two countries.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

British-American Fiction

Finished November 11
After You by Julie Buxbaum
This novel tells the story of a summer from the point of view of a mid-thirties American woman, Ellie Lerner. Ellie has flown to London from Boston suddenly when her best friend Lucy has been murdered. Worse, Lucy's 8-year-old daughter Sophie witnessed the attack. Lucy's husband Greg is struggling to deal with it, and Ellie steps in where she is needed, abandoning her own life.
Ellie has left her job and her husband Phillip to be there, and Phillip is not understanding her need to be there for Sophie and Greg, and not be with him.
As Ellie helps Sophie deal with her guilt and grief, they read The Secret Garden and find that life has its pleasures still. Ellie also finds out that despite being best friends with Lucy for more than thirty years, she doesn't know her as well as she thought she did. Ellie begins to realize she hasn't faced her own life's issues and that she must confront them to move on with her life.
Dealing with emotional pain and regret, this novel takes us into Ellie's world.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Literary Fiction

Finished November 10
Love and Summer by William Trevor
Set in the village of Rathmoye in Ireland, this story tells of a few months one summer. A young man appears in the village on the day of the funeral for an prominent woman, Mrs Connulty. He had only come to photograph the burned out cinema, but takes photos of the funeral. Miss Connulty, liberated by the death of her mother keeps an eye on the young photographer, Florian Kilderry and witnesses the events of the summer.
On a farm near the village, the farmer Dillahan lives with his new wife. He also lives with guilt over the accidental death of his first wife and their child. His new wife, Ellie, is a convent girl who came to work for him after the accident and stayed in marriage.
When Ellie encounters Florian, she is drawn to him, and begins an attachment that can't hope to end well.
As expected, Trevor is capable of making literature out of ordinary lives and drama in everyday happenings. You feel the strong emotions present in these characters, and find yourself inextricably drawn into their lives.

Canadian Fiction

Finished November 9
Your Sad Eyes and Unforgettable Mouth by Edeet Ravel
This book was recommended to me back in January and I finally got around to reading it. I really enjoyed it. The novel is very character-driven, centering around Maya, daughter of a Holocaust survivor. Maya's father died before she was born and she lives with her mother and grandmother. She is a bit of a misfit and feels it until one summer when she attends an unorthodox summer camp. The following summer she meets and becomes friends with Rosie, another daughter of Holocaust survivors and embarks on a new life embracing her Jewish culture as a way of staying close to Rosie.
As we see Maya coming to terms with her feelings and her impulses, we are made aware of her motivations and thoughts.
This is a book of a woman coming to terms with her life.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Dog Book

Finished November 7
Everything for a Dog by Ann M Martin
This book follows three characters: Bone, Charlie and Henry. Bone is a dog, born a stray and after a short stint in a home, a stray again.
Charlie is a boy whose family has had a terrible loss. His dog Sunny comforts him and becomes his best friend as he recovers.
Henry has wanted a dog for years, but his parents still won't let him have one.
As these three stories come together we see how the bond between a dog and their owner is a strong one.
There were a few bits that had me crying, but the overall story ended on a good note.

Feel Good Novel

Finished November 6
Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
I found this book a quick read, but a very enjoyable one. The main character Helen Ames is a writer, or at least she was until she hit the writing block she is currently up against. The block began eleven months ago when her husband died suddenly.
Helen has gone from depending on her husband to do certain things to depending on her daughter. And while she depends on her daughter, she still sometimes treats her daughter too much like a child. Her best friend Midge is urging her to move on.
When Helen discovers from her accountant that her husband withdrew most of their retirement savings in a large withdrawal shortly before he died, she doesn't know what to think. Because of her worry over money, she decides to take a job teaching a creative writing course, something she would never have considered before.
A phone call from a stranger leads her to discover things about both her husband and herself that she would never have guessed. She also finds a new relationship with her daughter.
Elizabeth Berg's books always leave me feeling good and this one is no exception.

Fun Word Book

Finished November 4
Ounce Dice Trice by Alastair Reid, drawing by Ben Shahn
I had bought this book for a gift, but I'm finding it so nice, I might have trouble giving it up.
It is a lovely book celebrating words and the sounds they make. From words that sound like what they describe to words the give you certain feelings, you really look at words more closely. There are some lovely circular garlands that lead you through several interesting words back to the beginning. There are lists of words to name different things and different lists of counting words.
This is a great book for any age person who likes words.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Canadian Memoir

Finished November 4
Small Beneath the Sky: a prairie memoir by Lorna Crozier
This memoir had me enthralled from the first page. The imagery is some of the best I've ever read and she intersperses memoir segments with impressions on nature and her prairie surroundings.
Her memoir is open and honest and she doesn't try to gloss over the difficult times. She has gained permissions from some people she grew up with to tell their stories and has changed the names of others. Her family life was not easy and she talks about the role family dynamics played in not only her life, but that of her immediate family as well.
The writing is lyrical and flowing and her writing brings her world to life.
This is one of the best memoirs I've read in a long time, and I highly recommend it.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Canadian Fiction

Finished October 30
Underground by June Hutton
This is a book I asked for and got for my birthday this year and finally got around to reading. I'm sorry I waited as I really enjoyed it.
It tells the story of Albert Fraser, who enlists as a soldier in World War I at the age of sixteen, is injured and returns to an unhappy home in B.C. He lives a perambulatory life, working a variety of working class jobs until the Depression makes him jobless and homeless. After being taken in by a couple in the north, he decides to help in Spain and volunteers for the Spanish Civil War. Inspired by the sight of Picasso's Guernica, he moves toward a future life.
We really see Albert's worries and fears and how he deals with them. This is a young man, who spent a long time looking for his place in the world, trying different lives and finding that they didn't suit him, until finally finding a life for himself.

Another Kids Classic

Finished October 29
I Believe in Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Gary Blythe
A lovely book about the power of reading, as a young farm boy gets introduced to books and sees how the people in his village work together to save the library when it is threatened.
This edition has lovely illustrations which bring the story to life.
I know a young boy who will be getting this one for Christmas.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Foreign Audiobook

Finished October 27
The Creator's Map by Emilio Calderón, read by Tony Chiroldes
I just finished listening to this entrancing novel in the car today. It is set in Rome beginning in 1937 and taking us through the Second World War. As it begins, a group of Spaniards have banded together to wait out the Spanish Civil War. The narrator, José María has remained neutral to the war. With no family remaining, he concentrates on his new career as an architect. It is only when the beautiful young Spaniard Montse involves him in her intrigues that he becomes involved in things. The two end up spying on local Nazis and become involved in a plot to collect mystic artifacts through their relationship to a young Italian prince. The prime artifact that is sought is the title of this novel, the creator's map, supposedly drawn by God.
As José tells his story you see how his emotions embroil him and ultimately make his decisions for him.
The reader of this audiobook makes the words flow and come to life. Rome exists in the listening.

Canadian Children's Fiction

Finished October 26
A Very Fine Line by Julie Johnston
Rosalind Kemp is the youngest of several sisters and lives in a small town in Ontario. She is a bit of a tomboy as well as an artist and is trying to find her own place in the world when she encounters her gift of second sight. When she finds out her family history of clairvoyance from a maiden aunt, she works hard to escape the gift that has apparently been given her.
Ros is a girl who keeps to herself. She is close to her cousin Corny (Cornelius) who is near her own age, and her older sister Marietta, but doesn't have friends around girls her own age. She likes to draw, but her drawings don't always appeal to others.
She eventually finds that she must face her whole self to move forward with her life. This is a good story for tweens and young teens.

Children's Fiction

Finished October 24
The Box of Delights by John Masefield
This classic children's fantasy story is one I missed in my own childhood. The copy I bought is a new edition by the New York Review, and a lovely one with great illustrations.
Kay Harker is on his way home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays, and encounters an interesting character when he changes trains. From that point on, all sorts of things begin to happen. From encounters with suspicious characters to wizards, to gangs of criminals things are constantly happening around him. At one point it would appear that Christmas celebrations themselves are threatened. Kay must be strong and work hard to rescue his friend, and foil the wizard's plot.
This will be a great Christmas present to a great young reader I know.

European Novel

Finished October 22
Benny and Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti
This novel from Sweden is a charming story told from alternating points of view. Desiree (alias Shrimp) is a widowed librarian trying to come to terms with her young husband's sudden death and her own longing for children. Benny is a dairy farmer, whose mother has recently died from cancer. The two meet in the cemetery, with the graves they are each visiting next to each other. They come from very different worlds, and have very different interests, but are increasingly drawn to each other.
This novel is really about the characters and the choices they are up against. Once started, I found it hard to put down. It is not a conventional love story, but it is one that will grab your emotions.

Monday, 19 October 2009


Finished October 19
20 Canadian Poets Take on the World edited and introduced by Priscila Uppal
This is an interesting collection of translated works of poetry from many different languages, all translated by Canadian writers. Some of the translators had never done anything like this before. There is an introduction to each poet and that includes information on how the translation was approached.
The poetry in and of itself is interesting, but the narrative that accompanies each poet/translator is also very interesting.
This is an interesting and unique work in the field of Canadian literature.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Canadian Mystery

Finished October 18
The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny
This is one of Penny's best.
Once again a dead body has turned up in Three Pines, this time in Olivier's bistro. He appears to be a stranger, homeless. But the deeper Gamache digs into this mystery, the more he finds that things are not what they seem.
We see all the usual inhabitants of Three Pines, plus the new couple who have taken on the old Hadley place intending to make it into an inn and spa. Besides Gamache's usual team we have a new local policeman Morin, who brings his own experiences to the story.
Here, character plays an important role in the story, and not just in the mystery of the body, but also in other stories going on in and around Three Pines.
A good read, that will have you thinking about how things seem.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Finished October 14
Thicker than Water by Anthea Fraser
Fraser's books always have a psychological edge to them, and so does this one. There is much more of the physical here than many of hers have though. The book is told in four sections with an epilogue. Each section follows a different character, and it is not until the fourth section that we see how the characters are related to each other.
The first three characters are attractive people with friends as well as lovers. But they are all also secretive of their pasts. Even those closest to them don't know much about their childhoods. They also all have trigger points, at which they become nervous or ill at ease, and tend to avoid. Here each of them encounters something unexpected that reminds them of their past and makes them scared and nervous. Until the fourth section, we are left to wonder at what past experience has affected them so terribly. Each of the first three sections ends abruptly and I couldn't help but wonder what happened next to all the characters in that part of the story (although of course that is not the story being told!), and I think that is merely a result of my own curious nature.
A good a gripping read, but not a happy one.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

King Arthur

Finished October 13
Gwenhwyfar: the white spirit by Mercedes Lackey
I've always enjoyed the various series by authors around the character and times of King Arthur and his knights. This new book is no exception.
This novel is told from the point of view of Gwenhwyfar, third daughter of a Celtic king. Lackey has gone back to Welsh myths and found a story of Arthur having three queens in succession with the same name. This Gwenhwyfar is the third queen. While a dutiful princess, Gwenhwyfar also knows her own mind from a very young age. Although blessed with the power of the Goddess, she feels a strong pull to be a warrior and idolizes a woman warrior in her father's kingdom, Braith. Acknowledged by Braith and encouraged by her father, who has no sons, she begins her warrior training with her mother's reluctant approval.
We see the young girl grow into the strong warrior, helped by others to recognize her particular strengths and using them to the best advantage of both her father and the High King, Arthur. She excels in the life she as chosen and is respected by both the war chiefs and Arthur's chief strategist, but in the end, she is still the daughter of a king and must conform to the duty required of her as a princess.
The character of Gwenhwyfar is made to come alive more than in most other Arthurian books I've read where she is often a peripheral figure. Here, she is central to the action, and speaks her own mind when it matters.
This book is well written and engaging and allows us to see many of the other well-known characters in this world in a new light.

Australian Fiction

Finished October 9
The Incredible Journey by Catherine Martin
My mother-in-law spotted this in a book sale and thought of me. I'd never heard of it before, but it was first published in 1923 and is one of the first depictions of an aboriginal character in fiction. The author was raised to think of aboriginals in a more enlightened way than most in her time, and, as she says, "in order to put on record, as faithfully as possible, the heroic love and devotion of a black woman when robbed of her child".
There is an introduction to the edition I read that places this novel historically and gives some idea of just what a stir it made at the time. Martin was born on the isle of Skye and grew up in South Australia following the Highland clearances.
The book follows the character Iliapa, an aboriginal woman who went after her son when he was stolen away by a white man. Interestingly, the book was published right around the same time as the state parliament passed a law increasing the state's power over aboriginal children, including allowing them to be taken from their parents.
While still depicting some prejudices of the time, it speaks to the aboriginals as being treated with injustice by whites and having the same intellectual capacity. Definitely ahead of its time and an interesting work in the history of Australian literature.

Medical Snapshots

Finished October 8
Lives in the Balance: Nurses' Stories from the ICU edited by Tilda Shalof
This is a collection of stories from nurses who work in ICUs in both Canada and the United States. The stories vary from general to specific and uplifting to heart-wrenching. The ICU nurses work in technologically advanced, intellectually-demanding work and due to the often one-on-one nurse to patient ratio, can get involved emotionally with their patients. These stories bring those experiences to life and the reader can feel the fast pace and intensity of the work that is required.
This book opens a window into experiences that we don't often get to see (luckily!) and put real people and personalities into those situations.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

New YA Novel

Finished October 6
The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
This historical novel takes place in the 1850s when Pell runs away from her home and village the night before she is to get married. With her, she takes her youngest sibling, a mute boy named Bean, and her horse Jack.
She sees how marriage and motherhood wore down her mother and determines that she cannot live that life. On the road to Salisbury, she meets interesting, helpful and dangerous people. One of the people that helps her is a Gypsy woman with several children, Esther. When she is unexpected left without the meagre earnings and without her possessions, she must find a way to find what she has lost and make a living.
Pell's emotional ties to her family are stronger than she expects, and ultimately alter the course of her travels.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Latest from mystery writer

Finished October 3
The Water's Edge by Karin Fossum
This is Fossum's lastest featuring Inspector Sejer. As usual it is a masterpiece of psychological fiction.
When a couple is out walking in the country, they meet a man who seems scared and evasive. Later in their walk they find the body of a young boy, obviously abused. Are the two connected? As Sejer and Skarre look for the reasons and person behind the boys death, they also discuss the nature of urges and paedophiles.
Despite public appeals, the man in the woods does not come forward.
When another boy from the same school disappears, the whole community is on edge. Parents are driving their children to and from school, and everyone is impatient for the case to be solved.
This is full of suspense as well as psychological issues. We see inside the mind of the man responsible, as well as the woman in the couple who saw him. We are asked to wonder why people behave the way they do.
An excellent and interesting read.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

IFOA Author

Finished September 30
We Are Now Beginning Our Descent by James Meek
I grabbed this book to read as Meek is coming to Barrie for the International Festival of Authors and I wanted to experience his writing. Boy, am I glad I did.
It took a while before I got engrossed in the book, but once I did, I had a hard time putting it down. The plot moves back and forth in a continuous basis between late 2001 and late 2002, with a epilogue in 2003. The main character is Adam Kellas, a British journalist who have lived a very nomadic life during his journalistic career. In October 2001 he accepts a posting to Afghanistan and chronicles his experiences and observances there, including a connection he made with an American writer, Astrid.
In late 2002, he is back in London, has just had his new novel, a thriller written for the mass market, accepted by a publisher, and out of sorts with his world. As he encounters friends, exes, and acquaintances his thoughts travel back to the previous year to experiences there.
This book is about Kellas' thoughts and actions and takes us from Afghanistan to Britain to America, as well as inside Kellas' mind. We see his dreams, illusions, and realities in very interesting ways.
A great read for the times.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Another Thriller

Finished September 27
Undone by Karin Slaughter
This book takes us to one of Atlanta's busiest hospitals and merges two series by Slaughter. Sara Linton is working in the emergency department of the hospital and has been for two years. She has moved away from the house that she shared with her husband and immersed herself in this busy world as a refuge from his tragic death.
When a young woman comes into emergency, naked, hit by a car, and obviously a victim of torture, she becomes involved in a police investigation. Will Trent and Faith Mitchell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation are also at the hospital when the woman arrives, and Will jumps into the case immediately. The local police are not cooperative, but Will makes inroads, and when a second victim is found, they start looking for connections.
When another woman is kidnapped, leaving a six-year-old child, they realize that they are working against time to save her.
The suspense is ongoing throughout and both Faith and Will have their own secrets to protect and their own weaknesses that sometimes complement each other. This story had many flawed characters with many issues and is as good as Slaughter has ever been.

Suspenseful Audiobook

Finished September 25
Blind Eye by Stuart MacBride, read by Stuart MacBride
Polish men are turning up with their eyes gouged out and the sockets burned. None of them is willing to tell the police anything about the attacks. They are always found abandoned on building sites. Letters telling of the attacks arrive at Police Headquarters, telling of more attacks if the police do not take action.
DCI Finnie is in charge of the investigation, and DC Logan McRae is kept on his toes trying to please both the DCI and his own DI, a lesbian who is trying to make her wife happy by getting them a child.
When DC McRae and his DI come upon an attack before the perpetrators have left, they finally have a witness, but he's on the run and trying to stay safe himself.
Logan isn't sure who to trust and ends up being shot at, threatened, blown up, kidnapped, and threatened some more before he finally comes to the end of the case.
This book is fast moving and the author's reading of it is engaging and kept me gripped.
A great adrenaline-pumping read.

More Short Stories

Finished September 23
The Journey Prize Stories, 19 selected by Caroline Adderson, David Bezmozgis and Dionne Brand
This is the journey prize stories for 2007, a collection that includes ill-fated romance; a child's dream of having a sister; a man who, when faced with a family crisis, faces his own life differently; the competitions and truths around a convenience store arcade game; a journalist's experience when trying to advance her career; and, my favourite, a young woman's ever-present chill is alleviated in an unexpected way.
It is always interesting to read the new up-and-coming writers.

Amazing photographs

Finished September 22
Creature by Andrew Zuckerman
This large-format photography book has wonderful images of many animals, from insects to grizzly bears.
The photographs include some close-ups and all open your eyes to the variety of textures and the detail of each animal. You can stare at some photographs for a long time, just taking in the detail.
From the quills of a porcupine to the toes of an elephant, this will have you taking a new look at each animal included.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Fast-Moving Thriller

Finished September 21
Even Money by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
The latest book by Dick Francis, whom I've liked from the first read, and a winner as usual.
I started it yesterday and finished it today and enjoyed every bit of it.
Here the main character is Ned Talbot, bookmaker. Ned inherited his firm from his grandfather and has a young man, Luca, working for him that knows the computer side of the business. When a man tells Ned that he is his father, whom Ned was told died in a car crash with his mother when he was only a year old, Ned is sceptical, but agrees to talk with him.
When the man is killed in a stabbing in the parking lot barely an hour later, Ned is thrown into turmoil. Trying to find out more about his father, Ned tells the police the truth, nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth, and tries to find out more on his own.
Adding to Ned's problems in life is his wife Sophie's mental state. She has been in and out of mental institutions struggling with bi-polar disorder and Ned tries to shield her from everything that is going on in order to protect her.
With lots going on and a good plot line, this story continues to make me a Dick Francis fan.

Quirky poetry

Finished September 20
Itty Bitty Kitty Ditties by Tim Hodapp, artist Alex Boies, designed by Jo Davison
I picked this small poetry book off the new book shelf on Saturday just for the title. It has simple, charming illustrations paired with 26 poems, each about an individual cat from Agnes to Zack.
The poems are short four-lined rhymes, and the illustrations bring them to life.
A quick amusing read.

Sunday, 20 September 2009


Finished September 19
The Doctor Will Not See You Now: The Autobiography of a Blind Physician by Jane Poulson
This is the memoir of a woman who overcame obstacles in her life and used her experiences to improve the lives of others.
A Toronto native, Jane was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes as an adolescent. She studied hard at her favourite subject science and continued those studies at university. Persisting in her quest for an interesting and useful life, she applied to medical school and was accepted into McGill. She lost her vision in her last year of medical school at the age of 27, and with the support of friends and colleagues, did her internship despite her lack of sight. She found a niche in palliative medicine and soon became sought out for her insights into the field.
She moved back to Toronto to spend more time with her family and in her 40s was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She also developed heart disease. While not actively practising following these health setbacks, she still did research and wrote, adding her own experience as a patient to the information she shared with her colleagues. Jane died at the age of 49.
This memoir shows her personal struggles, the friends and faith that helped her find her way, and the information she added to the knowledge in her field. An inspiring story.

Short Stories

Finished September 20
One Good Story, That One by Thomas King
This collection of stories mixes Christian symbolism, Native myth, materialism, and bureaucracy together in ways not seen before. King takes from a variety of sources to create humorous and entertaining tales. The native element is strong and Coyote appears in many of the stories here. King's writing also uses satire to bring out the story and these are no exception.
I found the stories mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyed this book.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Audio Thriller

Finished September 18
Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich
This book picks up a few months after Rules of Deception left off. Jonathan Ransom is flying into London from his Doctors Without Borders post in Kenya to speak at a conference.
His wife Emma, presumed dead by most people, is also in town. She meets with him, but then tells him she must say goodbye, perhaps forever. He is determined to find out what is happening and follows her. Once again he gets drawn into the world of spies and terrorists, violence and flight.
The action-packed plot never stops, and kept me entertained through a long drive home from New York State.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Canadian Short Stories

Finished September 17
The Journey Prize Stories 20 selected by Lynn Coady, Heather O'Neill, Neil Smith
The Journey Prize stories are "the best of Canada's new writers" and this is the 2008 edition featuring the finalists for the Journey Prize for that year.
This edition has a special feature: comments from more than twenty well-known writers whose early work appeared in the anthology.
It also lists all the stories from all the years.
This year's anthology features writers living from B.C. to Quebec and covers a wide variety of subjects. From the bleak to the fantastic, these are stories by authors to watch.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Great Business Book

Finished September 16
The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work by Jon Gordon
This short but good book talks about ways to deal with negative energy and attitudes, not just in the workplace, but also in life in general.
Using a fictional situation, the book follows an HR director of a company dealing with problems that can be traced back to negative attitudes at work. The company must find a way of dealing with the current situation and ensuring that the employees engage in more positive actions and attitudes.
In her personal life the HR director, aptly named Hope, is also dealing with a long period of negative energy that has resulted in poor relationships with her family and an unhappy life.
She not only uses the tools she learns from an encounter in her personal life at work, but also with her family. She does her research as well and comes up with a plan to get rid of the energy-sapping complaining that goes on. By focusing on only those complaints that have real substance and looking at the solutions for those, she can ensure the employees at her company are engaging with each other in a more positive way.
The book provides tools and a website to assist with resources to help implement the ideas in the book in your own situation.
A useful tool for every manager's bookshelf.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Mystery Audiobook

Finished September 14
Death of a Witch by M.C. Beaton, Read by Graeme Malcolm
Hamish Macbeth has just returned from a disappointing vacation in Spain, and finds that there is a newcomer in the village. Catriona Beldame is living in one of the old cottages and appears to be offering potions and powders to cure various ails. The local men are particular users and this has outraged the women in the village. When Hamish learns that the men are not getting the effect they desired, he expresses his outrage to Beldame and tries to get her to leave the village.
When Hamish goes to confront her again, he finds her murdered and then her home is destroyed. Hamish works to find out what brought her to the village and who might be behind the murder while fending off accusations from his boss, Blair. Hamish also deals with advances from the new forensic investigator, and secrets within the village.
As usual, Hamish gets to the bottom of things, as well as dealing with his personal life.
An entertaining book.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Book about Reading

Finished September 12
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen
Quindlen is one of my favourite writers, and this book only adds to that feeling. In four short chapters, Quindlen talks about reading and the effect it has had on her life. The first chapter talks about the joy of reading and of being a bookworm. The second chapter talks about the development of reading in her life, the books that she started with and how she came across them. It emphasizes reading as a way to experience the other, to travel without going anywhere, to escape while still being present. The third chapter talks about the various functions of reading from literature to entertainment and the questionable idea that popularity is in inverse proportion to talent. She talks about the importance of books that lessen isolation, that make the reader feel they are not alone in their experiences. She talks about books that have been controversial and what that means. The fourth chapter discusses rereading, indicating that it is not only children that go back to favourite books again and again. She also talks about the inspirations for writing, and how it is not the "geniuses" like Shakespeare that inspire, but the authors who make one feel that "I can do that". She discusses what authors lead her to write and inspired her to keep writing. This chapter also discusses progress and the false predictions about the demise of different writings that are occuring now as well as those from the past.
Following this she includes several book lists that are both interesting and useful.
I could relate to most of what she wrote here, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This will definitely be one of my rereads, as are one or two that she mentions as favourites.

Children's Fiction

Finished September 11
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
A good book for tweens, this novel features Kirsten McKenna, who is entering grade seven. She has hardly seen her best friend Rory over the summer, and now Rory seems to be hanging out with a different group of girls. Kirsten's parents are constantly fighting and her mother keeps talking about Kirsten's recent weight gain and food issues. Luckily Kirsten's little sister Kippy is an ally in the household and the girls comfort each other.
Also starting at the same school is Walker Jones, one of the few black kids at the school. Walker is there on scholarship and he is under pressure from his single mother to do well. Walker hangs out with Matteo, another scholarship student, who seems to be willing to do anything the class queen asks him to, no matter how wrong.
As the kids find their place in the school and deal with their parents' issues, they learn about themselves as well.
This is a good story, with interesting characters. The story alternates between Kirsten and Walk telling their versions of what is going on, and other characters are given depth as well.

New Mystery

Finished September 11
Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay
Got through the latest mystery by this great mystery writer in just over a day. Definitely a page-turner.
Tim Blake is a car salesman. His wife divorced him because she wanted him to be more ambitious and she is now in a serious relationship with a man who owns his own used-car business.
Tim's daughter is staying with him for the second summer in a row. Last year she worked at the dealership where he works. This year, she wants a little more space, so has found her own job, working for a small hotel in town.
Tim has had a girlfriend recently, but decided she was a bit flaky and has been looking for a way out of the relationship.
One morning Tim and his daughter Sydney have a few words over breakfast. That evening she doesn't come home. When Tim goes looking at the hotel where she worked, they say she never worked there. Her best friend Patty has no idea where she might have gone. As days pass, Tim won't give up looking for her. But he is finding himself in more and more compromising situations and things are looking bleak.
A great plot and sympathetic characters make this a great read.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


Finished September 7
I'm Down by Mishna Wolff
Mishna has a very unusual childhood, growing up in a poor black neighbourhood of Seattle, with a white father who thinks and acts black. Her father works occasional construction jobs, but generally doesn't do a lot to support his family. Her parents split up when she is quite young, but unusually for the time, she and her sister Anora stay with her father. The neighbourhood she grew up in is the same one her father grew up in, and while he fit in, friends with the black men in the area, she doesn't. She feels white and out of place and she doesn't know how to act to fit in, although her sister has a better time of it. When she gets accepted into a progressive school, she finds she doesn't fit in with the white kids there either, as she is too "black" to fit into that culture. When her father remarries, this time to a black woman, it doesn't get any easier and Mishna has a difficult time finding her way, determined to get a better life and yet unsure how to attain that goal.
I found this memoir very engaging and interesting not just for Mishna's own experiences, which she tells in a lively and honest way, but also because I have an adopted sister who is black, and she has told me that she has trouble fitting into black culture because she was raised "white". This is an interesting look at culture and environment and how it shapes us.

Historical Fiction

Finished September 6
East of the Sun by Julia Gregson
This novel has an epic feel to it, even though it takes place over the period of just over a year, from late 1928 to early 1930. We follow Viva Holloway, a young woman who grew up in India and now wants to go back to revisit the place where she lost her family. To do this she takes on work as a chaperone, but while generally level-headed, she is also inexperienced.
Two of her charges are young ladies. Rose is going out to India to be married to a young officer that she has only met a few times. Victoria, Rose's bridesmaid is determined to find a husband while she is in India and never return to her domineering mother.
The third charge Viva has taken on is a young man, Guy Glover, who has been expelled from his school and is returning to his parents in India. Guy is a very disturbed young man, and when he acts out during the voyage, Viva is out of her depth, and only manages with the help of a doctor on board the ship, Frank.
Once in India, Rose faces her new life in marriage while Victoria (Tor) is taking advantage of every opportunity to enjoy life and find a man. Viva finds that Guy's parents leave her in the lurch and she must find a job quickly to make ends meet. She begins working in an orphanage.
While Viva keeps in touch with Rose and Tor, she finds that she cannot escape Guy and it is her relationship with him that eventually brings her back to facing down her own past and finding out what happened to her family.


Finished September 4
What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
This is a memoir of a certain time in Cohen's life and she is very open about her feelings and thoughts during these time. Cohen and her husband had tried to have a baby and found that she was infertile. Her own mother had taken DES during pregnancy, and this affected Cohen's own reproductive health. Cohen began hormone treatment to treat some of her health issues. They adopted a daughter and later divorced. A few years later, Cohen is in a new relationship, engaged to be married and happier than she has ever been. It is at this time that her story truly begins. She feels ill and takes her myriad of symptoms to her doctors who run tests and diagnose her with gastrointestinal problems. Months later, when she is still feeling badly and is told she has an abdominal tumor, she is sent for an emergency CAT scan that shows that she is six months pregnant.
Cohen is in her mid-forties, has had no pre-natal care, has been on drugs that could harm her fetus, has minimal health insurance, and is bombarded by opinions on the possible outcomes for her child. She vacillates between doubt, rejection and acceptance, and is extremely honest about her thoughts during this time. She worries about the health of her child, family finances and her own ability to handle the whole thing.
This is a memoir like no other I have read, and one that was gripping to the end.

Literary Fiction

Finished August 31
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan
I got my copy of this book through Powell's Book's Indiespensable program and it has been sitting on my nightstand for a while before I began to read it. The story follows Laura McAllan, her husband Henry, his brother Jamie, their tenant farmers Hap and Florence Jackson, and the Jackson's son Ronsel. Each of these characters tells part of the story from their point of view, a story that ends, as we are told at the beginning of the book with the death and burial of Henry and Jamie's father Pappy. The voices are individual and each tells their own version of events, yet the tale never loses its flow. While we begin at the end, we quickly go back to the beginning and follow the story along arriving at the end again, this time more fully.
This is a story of culture and the difficulty of change, a story of relationships and their development, a story of both race and class. Set in the American South just after the Second World War, it is well told and the setting is really a character unto itself.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Kansas Mystery

Finished August 30
Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger
The main character, Lottie Albright, is a historian living in Western Kansas. She is working on a project collecting family histories for the county as well as supporting a local candidate running for the Senate. When a letter arrives for her archives accusing the candidate of racist attitudes, she finds herself caught in the middle of a family upset between two sisters. When the letter writer, Zelda, is found murdered, the family is even more split and Lottie finds herself delving into the past to try and find out what is really behind the rift.
She applies for the job of deputy to help gain access to information, but also digs into a cold case in order to gain points with the sheriff. Lottie's twin sister Josie is a psychologist and Lottie finds herself consulting with her to try to figure out the motives behind the terrible events that are taking place. Lottie is able to use her research skills to reopen the cold case and find information that helps her understand the current crimes.
An interesting combination of the present and past, this first novel combines history with interesting facts to make a story.

North Carolina Mystery

Finished August 29
A Little Learning by Jane Tesh
This is the third book in a series featuring former beauty queen and fledgling private investigator and artist Madeline Maclin Fairweather. She lives with her new husband Jerry in the small town of Celosia, North Carolina. Jerry has made a living as a con artist, but has promised to get a job and go straight. Madeline gets hired to solve a riddle to find the key to gain an inheritance. She also agrees to help out a local art teacher by teaching the grade four class some drawing techniques. While at the school, she gets involved in the suspicious death of a teacher. There is no shortage of suspects as the teacher is one to annoy her co-workers and family.
As Madeline tries to keep her husband occupied and on the straight and narrow, she is also preparing paintings for a new exhibition and solving her cases, which makes her one busy lady. Madeline is a quick thinker and shows genuine interest in the people she encounters.

Dystopian Novel

Finished August 28
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Dalargy
This Swedish novel takes place in a society where productivity is paramount. Women over 50 and men over 60 who are childless and not in "progressive industries" are sent to the Unit. They have comfortable accommodation, plenty to eat, and state of the art amenities, and take part in drug and psychological testing. They also gradually donate their organs until the "final donation". They cannot contact anyone outside the Unit, although they have access to current television and media. The book follows Dorrit Weger as she enters the Unit following her 50th birthday. We watch as she makes new friends, continues to write books and adjust to her new reality. This is an exploration of psychological reactions under specific conditions, and explores the idea of who is valuable (needed) and who is dispensable in society. The subject matter is difficult, but it is handled well, and the character of Dorrit is deeply described. I highly recommend it.

Canadian Fiction

Finished August 27
Latitudes of Melt by Joan Clark
My mother was returning this book to a friend so I read before giving it back. Set in Newfoundland, this is the story of Aurora, found by fishermen floating on an ice floe in 1912. She was brought up by one of the fishermen's families, Merla and Francis St. Croix. We watch Aurora grow up and get married and have children, never leaving her new home in Newfoundland. She has always felt like a "come from away" and with her white hair and oddly coloured eyes has looked different from her neighbours. This is a character-driven story following not only Aurora, but also her husband and children and granddaughter. This is a great read and a moving story, another Canadian gem.

Immigrant History

Finished August 22
Hard Passage: A Mennonite Family's Long Journey from Russia to Canada by Arthur Kroeger
I was interested in this book as I am of Mennonite heritage on my maternal side. The Kroeger family came from the same area in Russia (really the Ukraine) as my family did, the Chortiza-Rosenthal area. My grandfather was born in Chortiza and emigrated to Canada in 1923, the first year of the organized emigration from Russia to Canada. Kroeger's family came in 1926. My grandfather was reluctant to talk about his early life and while I have reminiscences from some of his siblings, this adds to my knowledge of the situation in Russia. Kroeger used a variety of published resources as well as his father's papers and photos to tell his story.
I found this book full of facts and yet very readable. I'm glad to have found it to add to my knowledge of my own family history.

Historical Trek

Finished August 21
Bold Spirit: Helga Estby's Forgotten Walk across Victorian America by Linda Lawrence Hunt
My mother-in-law came across this book and passed it to me. It tells the story of a Norwegian immigrant woman who took a risk to attempt to save her family's home. Helga and her daughter Clara walked from Spokane to New York City along to win a prize of $10,000 from an anonymous woman sponsor who wanted to show that women had the physical and emotional stamina to endure such a journey. The two women faced danger from both other travellers and from nature and met many interesting and helpful people along the way. Unfortunately they did not get the prize and faced hardship and family tragedy before arriving back home. The cost to Helga to regain her family's trust and community's regard was to never talk of this accomplishment and its outcome. It was only through chance that her story did not disappear although it has many missing elements due to destruction of documents by her family. This is an inspiring historical story that was very nearly lost and I am glad that it was not.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Great New Mystery

Finished August 14
Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey
Read a good review of this book and that, combined with the fact that one of my uncles spent two years in Ghana with CUSO, let me to read the book.
I was not disappointed. The main character is a policeman with the CID in Accra, the capital. His name is Darko Dawson and he has some interesting skills, as well as some weaknesses that he must deal with.
Darko is haunted by the disappearance of his mother, which happened when he was twelve, who went to visit her family village and never returned home. When he is assigned the investigation of a murder in that same village, he vows to look for clues as to what happened to her while he is there.
The case he has been assigned is the murder of a young woman who was volunteering doing AIDS education while studying to be a doctor. He encounters a local fetish priest with his many wives, a local healer, and of course his own relatives.
Darko questions his own actions and regrets some of his rash moves, but he does have a good instinct for knowing when someone is lying and it is this that serves him well. He is a good observer of human behaviour and it is this skill that makes him a good policeman.
This is definitely a winner and I will be recommending it to patrons looking for new mystery writers.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Finished August 11
Darling Jim by Christian Moerk
This is a gripping story, with a very different plot.
The story begins with the grisly discover of bloated and emaciated bodies in a house. It is unclear exactly what happened, but it would appear that the older woman, Moira has killed her two nieces and been killed herself in a struggle with one of them.
When Niall, a young postman discovers the diary of one of the women in the dead letter bin, he feels compelled to follow the story back to its source and find out the truth of what led to this tragedy. His story takes him to a small village near Cork, to fairytale-like stories of wolves and castles, and to three sisters who cared about each very much.
It took me a while to get into this story but once I did, I could hardly put it down. The story just flows and Niall is a young man who believes in stories, and what librarian doesn't like that!


Finished August 3
Jump by Tim Maleeny
This was a new author for me, and I really enjoyed it.
Set in San Francisco, the book begins following the death of a landlord, falling from the twentieth floor (top floor) of the apartment building he ran.
There is no shortage of suspects, but also a possibility of suicide exists. Very recently retired cop, Sam McGowan lives on the twentieth floor and his old partner asks him to do some unofficial detective work to see whether the police should make this a murder investigation.
Sam has always relied on his wife to make contacts with the neighbours, but she has recently died, and he must get to know them while also finding out about their actions that evening.
The various characters are original and highly entertaining, as is the plot. Sam comes out of the shell he has been in since his wife died and gets back into real life.
I particularly liked the way the author moved from chapter to chapter, using similar wording to link the actions from one scene to another.
A great mystery.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Psychological Thriller

Finished July 31
Ravens by George Dawes Green
This is a suspenseful ride into the world of a sociopath. When Shaw McBride and his friend Romeo Zderko stop for a rest at a convenience store of I-95 in Georgia, they get sidetracked into a world that is a strange one indeed. Shaw overhears the news that a local family has a winning lottery ticket (for a multimillion dollar jackpot) and works out a plan to get some of the money.
Shaw visits the Boatwright family that night and takes the family hostage, while Romeo acts as the threat against other family members should anyone decide to resist.
Shaw's manipulation of both the Boatwrights and his own friend show his personality and single-mindedness.
While there are spots of humour, this is a dark novel about manipulation and the power of personality. I'm still not sure whether I liked the book, but it shows excellent writing and strong characters.

Audio Thriller

Finished July 31
The Sign by Raymond Khoury, read by Richard Ferrone
This is a fast-moving action-filled thriller. The sign itself is a large glowing sphere of light that appears in the sky. It first appears in Antarctica over an ice shelf that is breaking up. Because of the presence of a TV journalist, the image is broadcast all over the world and debate begins about the origin and meaning of the sign.
The sign appears again in the Arctic and then in Egypt, over a coptic monastery. As religions around the world try to decide whether to celebrate or denounce the sign, Grace Logan, the journalist also tries to figure out why she seems to be in the right place at the right time.
Meanwhile, in Boston, Matt Sherwood is told that the sign might have something to do with his brother, who might not be dead after all. As Matt fights to find the truth and to stay alive, this story really heats up.
Violence and mayhem are present, and things just keep carrying you on to the final scene. Not everything gets wrapped up nicely, but this is escape literature and it fulfills the need for entertainment. A good vacation read.

Mysterious Mystery

Finished July 29
The Fate of Katherine Carr by Thomas H. Cook
This is a very different sort of mystery book and I'm finding it hard to classify. The main character, George Gates was one a travel writer focused on places where people disappeared. After he settled where he lives now, his eight-year-old son Teddy was snatched and it was a long time before his remains were found. George retreated inwards and now writes light, human-interest stories for his local paper. When he meets Arlo McBride, a retired missing persons detective, he becomes fascinated with the case of Katherine Carr, a woman who vanished twenty years before. He also becomes involved with a 12-year-old girl Alice who has progeria, a premature aging disease.
Together, George and Alice look at Katherine's story and at the clues and circumstances around her disappearance and find a different result from what they expected.
George lives with regret over his lost son, and how he might have prevented it. Katherine's story gives him a way to deal with his loss and move forward.

A Way of Looking at Life

Finished July 28
The Joy of Appreciative Living: your 28-day plan to greater happiness in 3 incredibly easy steps by Jacqueline Kelm
I've actually had this book out of the library for a while, reading it slowly and had to break away from it at one point to think about what it was saying. I started doing the daily appreciations, got off track and am only now getting back on.
For me, this book was about attitude, that is maintaining a positive one. Many other authors have touched on the idea of a gratitude list, but this plan also includes weekly visioning and monthly assessments. Reflect not on what you don't like in your life, but on what you want more of. Just figuring that out might take you a while, and for me it is something I am still thinking about. This plan isn't hard to do, but you do have to commit a small amount of time daily to get real results out of it.

Nonfiction Quickie

Finished July 28
The Whatchamacallit: those everyday objects you just can't name (and things you think you know about but don't) by Danny Danziger and Mark McCrum
This very cool book was recommended by a coworker. I found terms I knew well, and many that I did not. Examples of use or detailed descriptions are given, and many entries also include related terms. My favourites include:
* tmesis (the separation of parts of a compound word by the intervention of one or more words, such as abso-bloody-lutely)
* tittle (the dot on top of the lower case i and j)
* pulicue (the distance between the forefinger and thumb when extended)
* phosphene (sensation of light caused by excitation of the retina rather than light itself) [This happens to me when I cough in the dark and I never knew it had a name!]
* noclilucent (particular and unusual high cloud, seen only in the evening)
* desire line (path more people want to take, despite any existing roads, walks, or tracks).
As you can see from my list, the subjects are varied and yet I find this sort of thing fascinating.

Great New Novel

Finished July 25
Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
Got a bit behind in posting my reads.
This one was a prepublication copy that I got through Library Journal, and I absolutely loved it. It has the feel of an Alexander McCall Smith Botswana novel but more depth to it.
The main character is Angel Tungaraza, who is from Tanzania. She and her husband Pius are in Rwanda where he, a university professor, is doing consulting work for the United Nations. They live in a U.N. compound, with local security guards protecting them. Angel and Pius are raising their five grandchildren as both their son and daughter have died. Angel bakes cakes out of her home to raise extra money.
It is this sideline that gives Angel opportunities to meet a wide variety of people. These include U.N. volunteers, officials from other countries, and locals. Angel speaks English and Swahili, which allows her to converse with most, but not all people she meets. In meeting with people who come to her for cakes, she gets drawn into issues in their lives, and it is these serious issues and how Angel confronts them that add the depth. Issues from genocide to AIDS, from feminism to literacy are touched on. Angel learns from each experience and applies them to her own life and relationships. Angel is a character who is complex and sometimes troubled, but tries to be honest with herself. She is a "professional somebody" who weighs her words and actions carefully before she moves forward. She has compassion for others and is genuinely interested in the people she meets.
As I said, I loved this book and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Chick Lit

Finished July 20
Anybody Out There? by Marian Keyes, performed by Terry Donnelly
The reading of this novel was especially good and I think it really made the book come alive for me. Anna Walsh has a great job as a PR rep for a hot cosmetics company in New York City. She meets a wonderful man and has a whirlwind romance before they marry.
But the book doesn't begin there, it begins with Anna waking up in her parent's home in Ireland, with some bad injuries. She is on heavy duty painkillers and her story is revealed to us as she comes to terms with it herself.
Anna has a dislocated knee, facial lacerations, and badly injured hands (including missing fingernails). As Anne deals with her family's compassion and protection, she continues to call her husband Aidan and can't figure out why he isn't answering her or returning her calls or emails.
Anna determinedly returns to New York and to her job, and begins to search for her husband. Her search takes her to interesting places and into interesting situations and she meets people that will become longterm friends.
Meanwhile her family's lives and her friend's lives continue and she gets caught up in their situations as well.
Highly entertaining and touching, this is a great summer read.


Finished July 19
The Way Home by George Pelecanos
Chris Flynn went down the wrong path as a teen, ending up in juvenile detention instead of college. He made some friends there that he stayed friends with after he got out, and went to work for his father as a carpet installer.
One day, he and his partner discover a stash of money under the floor when replacing carpet in a house. Chris has a bad feeling about it and insists they leave it where they found it, and they do.
But Chris is right and the money is trouble and Chris and his friends' lives are changed by it.
Chris is a young man struggling to decide what he wants out of life and who he wants to be. He also struggles with his relationship with his father, and trying to find a way out of the bad dynamic that started with his teen years.
So this is a story that deals with overcoming bad decisions and with families. It deals with the issues of youth crime and how we deal with youth offenders. It has more depth than the average suspense novel and a good story too.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Canadian Fiction

Finished July 18
The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews
Hattie has returned from her life in Paris to help her sister out yet again. Min has a history of mental illness and Hattie has helped out when necessary all their lives. Min is sinking into a depression and Hattie comes to help with her niece and nephew, 11-year-old Thebes and 15-year-old Logan. When Min is hospitalized and pushes her family away, Hattie decides the best thing to do would be to go on a road trip to find the kids' dad Cherkis. As they drive around the U.S. following Cherkis' trail and encountering interesting people, Hattie thinks on her own life and whether it is what she wants, or whether she has just been running away. Logan has had too much responsibility at a young age, as Hattie had. Thebes is very quirky and yet is good at bringing everyone together.
This book is both an internal and an external quest for Hattie, and she doesn't get any easy answers. The characters are drawn well and come to life here and as a reader, I got a sense of their emotions. The children are particularly well done, complex and very interesting.
I really enjoyed this book.

A Romance

Finished July 17
Water, Stone, Heart by Will North
A little romance is sometimes exactly what you need. Here we have Andrew Stratton, professor of architecture, recently divorced by his wife who derides his choice of profession. He decides to take a summer course in building dry stone hedges in England while he thinks about his passion for architecture linked to the earth.
Nicola, a painter, has been living a quiet life since she left her abusive husband.
Both are in Boscastle, a small village on the coast of England and they get to know each other through the friendship of a small girl, wise beyond her years.
The story is told against the real-life background of Boscastle and the real-life event of a 2004 flash flood that destroyed much of the village. Nicola has a argumentative bent that she uses as a protective device. Andrew is suffering from a crisis of confidence. Both find something in the other that they need.
I learned a lot about dry stone hedges and how they are built (which was interesting), and enjoyed the setting and the characters. There are lots of intriguing people here and this is no cookie-cutter romance.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Short Fiction

Finished July 15
Ant Farm and Other Desperate Situations by Simon Rich
I read this book as a result of a review that said it was really good and the information that the author was a finalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor.
It is definitely a quick read, as I think it took me about an hour and a half and I did a few other things during that time.
Some bits were funny and more bits weren't very funny and some bits were just kind of sad. A few bits were offensive unfunny. Nothing made me laugh out loud.
Maybe it's because I'm not American? (although I don't really think that's it)
Glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it though.

Children's Fiction

Finished July 15
What-the-dickens: the story of a rogue tooth fairy by Gregory Maguire
From the author of Wicked, this story for the young crowd is a tale apart. Three young children and their older cousin are stranded in a bad storm. They are running out of food and when the older cousin, Gage begins a story to occupy their time, even the most skeptical of them is interested. The story he tells is of a skibbereen who doesn't do what is expected of him, and yet is someone more of value to his community because of it.
The skibbereen is called What-the-dickens and his odd name is only the beginning of his story. The daring adventures of him and his skibbereen friend Pepper are engaging and the reader, along with the children, finds herself wanting more.
I know my niece will like this one and she will be getting it soon.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


Finished July 14
Direct Red: a surgeon's view of her life-or-death profession by Gabriel Weston
This is not a memoir done in a chronological style. Weston uses a themed approach, with each chapter focusing on a particular aspect of her experience while training as a surgeon in Britain.
I found this to be extremely engaging and an approach that leads the reader into dipping in and out of the book in short sessions.
She speaks of her own learning experiences including when she felt she fell short and she also takes about more general experiences including her own view among her peers. This is a very open book offering insight into the experience of a surgeon and the issues they face. She speaks of the need to balance toughness with compassion and the importance of communication both between patient and doctor and among medical professionals. As a woman she also speaks to gender issues both good and bad.
I really liked this book and I understand she has a new book out soon that I will be looking for.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Teen Fiction

Finished July 13
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
This is a great fantasy novel for older teens. It takes place in a land of seven kingdoms, kingdoms that had mostly got along with each other, but where discord has arisen lately.
Katsa, the main character, is a young woman who is niece to the king of Middluns, an inland kingdom with four kingdoms adjoining it. Katsa's mother died when she was an infant and her father soon after, and she has grown up at court. Katsa is special in that she has a Grace. Everyone who has a grace has one eye that is one colour and one eye another, although the combinations of colours differ. Sometimes the Grace reveals itself at a very young age, but other times it takes awhile to discover what the grace or skill is for that individual. In Katsa's kingdom, those with a Grace are treated with a wary respect. Katsa's skill had revealed itself when she was eight when she killed a man she felt threatened by. She took several years to train herself to control her strength and intent and the king now uses her as an enforcer, hurting or killing those who cross him.
Katsa has worked with a few people she trusts to create a Council where she uses her power for good, to defend the weak and right wrongs in the kingdoms. It is in doing a rescue related to this that she meets another with Grace, a young man named Po. Po is graced with fighting skills and the two find each other helpful in training and honing their skills. As Katsa learns more about Po, she finds him a friend, something she has few of. As they unite to find the truth behind some strange events, they both learn more about their Grace and about themselves.
This is a gripping tale that I had trouble putting down. Katsa is an interesting character and she must recognize and control her emotions to become the person she is meant to be.
The writing is very good and as this is a first novel it will be interesting to see what else comes from this author.

Book That Relates to My Job

Finished July 12
Sacred Stacks: the higher purpose of libraries and librarianship by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell
This is an interesting look at academic and public libraries and the people that work there. Maxwell is an academic librarian, but has also worked in public libraries.
This book looks at the role of libraries in the community and how we deliver service. Maxwell relates libraries to having a sacred, yet secular role, and librarians as having a calling of a sort to public service.
While comparisons to religious institutions are throughout, she recognizes that the current attitude toward a more general spirituality and seeking of knowledge lends itself well to libraries. She looks at the various functions libraries play from organizing information, to archiving it for posteriety to adding to individual and societal growth. The libraries role in the community is key here, with the library being a "third place" in people's lives after home and work. Her last chapter looks at the implications and expectation this places on libraries and librarians and explores some interesting ideas.
I found this a book that made me take a harder look at my library and the role our staff play in our community and I would recommend it to other librarians.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Humorous Canadian Mystery

Finished July 7
Bad Guys by Linwood Barclay
This is the second book in the series featuring Zack Walker, scifi writer and journalist. Zack and his family are back in the city and his daughter has started college. She also appears to have picked up a stalker. Zack wonders whether he should be worried about this or whether he is overreacting again.
Sarah isn't entirely comfortable having Zack reporting to her at the paper. Zack is doing features and is currently going out with a private investigator who has been hired to figure out who is ripping off high-end menswear establishments. Things get a little hotter than the two expect, and Sarah starts to worry herself.
As usual Zack ends up in a crazy situation, wondering how he got there.
The book has lots going with and just keeps moving. I read it very quickly as it just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Another good beach read.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Audio Fiction

Finished July 6
Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, read by Janet Song
This book follows two sisters from Shanghai, Pearl and May. When the book begins in 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, with a large international community and busy nightlife. Pearl and May work as "beautiful girls" modelling for advertisements of all kinds. This world begins to fall apart when their father reveals his financial problems have caused him to sell the two sisters as wives to "golden mountain men". The sisters fight against this at first, but when they realize the full story of their family situation, the city is already under attack by the Japanese. They must fight just to survive.
As the girls make their way out of Shanghai and to Los Angeles, they undergo a great deal, and these events seal their fate. In Los Angeles they struggle to begin new lives with men they don't know. But their strong bond as sisters carries them through.
From 1937 to the late 1950s, the sisters lives change enormously. See really makes the reader feel the reality of living as a visible minority in the U.S. at this time. It is a great story, and also a revealing one about the unsavory past of North American immigration.
Back in my undergrad days I took a course that looked at immigration to Canada from China and Japan from the beginnings until the early twentieth century and while their are differences, there are a lot of similarities as well. It is an interesting subject and this is a good book for a taste of it.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

New Collection

Finished July 4
McSweeney's 31
I had been intrigued by this book ever since it arrived and had been reading sections of it ever since. Finally finished it off this morning.
This is a beautifully bound hardcover consisting of a number of forms of literature with descriptions of each form and examples given of original writings and new writings in that form.
The forms covered include: pantoums, biji, whore dialogues, Graustarkian romances, nivolas, senryu, Socratic dialogues, consuetudinaries, and legendary sagas. I had only heard of a couple of these previously (sagas and dialogues) and was intrigued by the others.
It would appear that the favourite for both myself and the editors was the pantoum, an interesting form of poetry, because in addition to the section allocated for this form, several examples also appeared at the end of the volume.
I love having my mind stretched by stuff like this.

Books and Reading

Finished July 1
The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby
The subtitle of this book is "a hilarious and true account of one man's struggle with the monthly tide of the books he's bought and the books he's been meaning to read".
I've had this hanging around for a while and picked it up on Canada Day and read the whole thing. (I know I should have picked a Canadian book, what can I say.) The book is a collection of Hornby's columns from Believer magazine and each column begins with a list of the books he bought during the last month and another of the one's he's read.
The column goes on to discuss these, mostly about the ones he read. It is definitely amusing and I enjoyed it thoroughly and have added more books to me "want to read" list.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Quirky novel

Finished June 29
The Pig Did It by Joseph Caldwell
This extraordinary and quirky novel continually surprised me with more and more unexpected behaviour by the characters.
Told from the point of view of Aaron McCloud, who has come to this small village in Ireland from New York City to stay with his aunt Kitty, the novel begins with Aaron's detour. The bus Aaron is traveling on is held up by pigs loose on the road. When Aaron tries to help, he ends up left behind and followed by a pig.
He takes the pig to his aunt's house and there the trouble really begins. The pig roots up the vegetable garden, unearthing some very disturbing.
The characters are all unique, from Aaron with his self-centered pride to Kitty with her career as a novelist correcting the classics to Lolly the attractive pig farmer. The haplessness of Aaron is a foil for the sureness of the others.
The final scene is unexpected and yet inevitable.
A great summer read.

Interesting Novel

Finished June 29
The Voyage Home by Jane Rogers
This novel follows Anne Harrington. Anne has traveled to Nigeria after her father's death there and has decided to travel home by ship. Along the way, distracted by her grief and what she reads in her father's diary, she becomes isolated. She is forced to interact with others when a stowaway begs for his assistance for his ailing pregnant wife. Anne is not able to cope well with the situation, and finds herself involved in a shadowy world of manipulation, lies, and murder.
Once home, Anne sinks into depression, finding it increasingly difficult to cope with her guilt and grief.
We see Anne again four years later as she must again make a choice about the future, this time a deeply intimate one.
Rogers really gets you into Anne's head in this novel, so you feel just as confused and at sea as she is, and the complex feelings involved feel real. It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did I was drawn in completely and found myself struggling with Anne's actions and feelings.